Tim­buktu de­struc­tion sus­pect at ICC

Tal­iban tighten grip on Afghan city Rus­sia launches Syria air strikes

Daily Trust - - WORLD -

A sus­pected Is­lamist mil­i­tant ac­cused of de­stroy­ing cul­tural sites in Tim­buktu has ap­peared be­fore the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC), in the first case of its kind.

Ah­mad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is sus­pected of war crimes over the de­struc­tion of nine mau­soleums and a mosque in the an­cient Malian city in 2012.

He was handed over by Niger af­ter the ICC is­sued a war­rant for his ar­rest.

Wear­ing a navy-blue suit and wire-rimmed spec­ta­cles, Mr Faqi told the court: “My name is Ah­mad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, I am from the al-An­sar Tuareg tribe.”

He told the court he was born “about 40 years ago” in Agoune, 100km west of Tim­buktu, and was a “grad­u­ate of the teach­ers’ in­sti­tute in Tim­buktu and... a civil ser­vant in ed­u­ca­tion in the Malian gov­ern­ment be­gin­ning 2011”.

He said he wished to be spo­ken to in Ara­bic, but gave no other state­ment dur­ing the pro­ceed­ings at which the charges were read out.

The judge said the next hear­ing would be on 18 Jan­uary. Tal­iban fight­ers have seized a mil­i­tary hill­top site in Kun­duz, tight­en­ing their grip on the north­ern Afghan city.

The cap­ture of the Bala Hisar fortress came de­spite ef­forts by gov­ern­ment re­in­force­ments, backed by NATO airstrikes and spe­cial forces, to re­take the city.

It leaves the air­port as the army’s last strong­hold.

The Tal­iban over­ran Kun­duz on Mon­day, their big­gest mil­i­tary gain since they lost power in 2001. The Tal­iban had block­aded the Bala Hisar fortress for two days.

The nearly 200 Afghan se­cu­rity per­son­nel then aban­doned the po­si­tion af­ter run­ning out of food and am­mu­ni­tion, an Afghan se­cu­rity of­fi­cial told Reuters. Rus­sia has be­gun car­ry­ing out air strikes in Syria against op­po­nents of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad.

The strikes re­port­edly hit rebel-con­trolled ar­eas of Homs and Hama prov­inces, caus­ing ca­su­al­ties.

The US says it was in­formed an hour be­fore they took place.

Rus­sian de­fence of­fi­cials say air­craft car­ried out about 20 mis­sions tar­get­ing Is­lamic

Late on Tues­day the Tal­iban tried to cap­ture the air­port as well, but US air strikes and coali­tion spe­cial forces halted their ad­vance. A spe­cial forces com­man­der said the for­eign troops - who are in Kun­duz in a State, but US of­fi­cials said that so far they did not ap­pear to be tar­get­ing IS-held ter­ri­tory.

Syria’s civil war has raged for four years, with an ar­ray of armed groups fight­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment.

The US and its al­lies have in­sisted that Pres­i­dent As­sad should leave of­fice, while Rus­sia has backed its ally re­main­ing in power. non-com­bat role - had acted in “self-de­fence”.

Clashes went on through the night around Kun­duz, and the pro­vin­cial hos­pi­tal was re­port­edly strug­gling to cope with the num­ber of ca­su­al­ties.

The up­per house of the Rus­sian par­lia­ment ear­lier granted Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin per­mis­sion to de­ploy the Rus­sian air force in Syria.

The Rus­sian de­fence min­istry said the coun­try’s air force had tar­geted IS mil­i­tary equip­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties, arms de­pots, am­mu­ni­tion and fuel sup­plies - and did not hit civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture or ar­eas nearby.

Rel­a­tives mourn the death of Mo­ham­mad Akhlaq

Tal­iban fight­ers have been out on the streets of Kun­duz

Ah­mad al-Faqi al-Mahdi

An­ders Breivik

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